Who is Nathan Bedford Forrest? He was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and he was a freedom fighter for the southern colonies, the colonies of southern independence. But Nathan Bedford Forrest was also a racist. It's a symbol of a negative part of the past that many African Americans simply don't want, and they don't like.
VICE arrived in Memphis six days before the scheduled Klan rally to reveal the hard truths about a city that has struggled with racism since it was founded in 1819. A lot of people are up in arms about this Klan rally due to its timing, which is a day away from Easter, and five days away from the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Seems pretty purposefully timed, and outright disrespectful. Ku Klux Klan, the Memphis City Council, and the local gang members fight for what they believe is their right.
When the Ku Klux was formed, they created it as a social club, to start with. Tennessee at that time was ruled by just a tyrannical carpetbag governor, and he had tripled the taxes. And so these ex-Confederates thought that they had better do something about it. So they dressed up in sheets and curtains one night, and ran him out of town, and they restored law and order to Pulaski, Tennessee.
This caught on and the next town did the same thing. They were also protecting the white and black farmers who were losing their land, so it wasn't an anti-black thing whatsoever in the 1860s. After it had gone on for over a year on, the Klan had spread so widely that they needed someone who could really organize the Klan, and they voted in General Forrest as president of the Klan.
At that same point, the Klan started turning violent. Some of the guys were taking the law into their own hands, and so Bedford Forrest ordered that the Klan be disbanded, and it was. So in 1869, the Ku Klux Klan disappeared. Then around the time of World War I, jobs were scarce. You had the Great Depression. And the white guys figured out that if you scared the black guys out of town, there would be more jobs. So it became an economic tool for the Klan to resurrect itself. That's where it first had gotten into little terrorist activities.
The Klan disappeared in about 1933, and was gone on until the 1950s and '60s. Then when segregation came about, the third Klan arose. And they were specifically to fight black civil rights and to oppose federal intervention. And they really developed the scare tactics, just to terrorize the black residents. And that's, unfortunately, the Klan that we have today, is more of the terrorist group.